Schroedel v. Bumgarner

Facts: Mother and Father divorced, whereupon Mother was named the primary residential parent for Child.  Mother subsequently developed a drug addiction, which led to a change of custody to Father and a co-parenting schedule for Mother.  After a lot of conflict caused by Father’s new wife, Stepmother, Father insisted on supervised visitation for Mother.  Mother filed this action to change custody.  After a hearing, the trial court found there had been a material change of circumstances but the changes “have not been of such a nature so as to warrant a change in the designation of primary residential parent status.”  The trial court did restore normal, unsupervised co-parenting to Mother.  Mother appealed.

The Court of Appeals affirmed the trial court.

While Father’s and Stepmother’s actions interfering with Mother’s and the Child’s parent-child relationship are of serious concern, we cannot say that the evidence preponderates against the Trial Court’s finding that it does not yet rise to the level of a material change of circumstances sufficient to change custody. We find no error in the Trial Court’s refusal to change primary residential custody.

We caution Father that part of his role as the primary residential parent is “to facilitate and encourage a close and continuing parent-child relationship between the child and both of the child’s parents ….” Father does not have the right to unilaterally stop Mother’s court-ordered visitation as he has done in the past. Furthermore, the record reveals that Stepmother has attempted to improperly insinuate herself into matters regarding the Child’s custody and visitation. These actions are not in the best interest of the Child, and we trust that Father will take steps to insure that such behavior does not happen in the future, or be faced with the consequences of his actions.

The evidence regarding Stepmother’s interference is infuriating.  If Father does not put an end to Stepmother’s meddling, the trial court must.  One may speculate whether this case would have turned out differently had Mother demonstrated a bit more stability in her personal life.

Schroedel v. Bumgarner (Tennessee Court of Appeals, Oct. 13, 2010).

Information provided by K.O. Herston, Tennessee Divorce Lawyer.

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K.O. Herston is a family-law attorney in Knoxville, Tennessee whose practice is devoted exclusively to family law, including divorce, child custody, child support, alimony, prenuptial agreements, and other aspects of family law.

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